One night during the break, the brothers in charge of the generating set were taking longer than usual to power up the set while Solatul Maghrib and darkness is fast approaching. One of the mosque imams, partly in jest and partly in banter (with those brothers (may Allah reward them)) exclaimed ““Ę sáná sí generator!”
“Ę sáná sí generator” is what anybody can ordinarily say. But the sentence means more to me, and I wasted no time in telling the speaker so. “Sáná sí” in that sentence implies that the generator should be lit – like a candle. It conjures in my mind the image of matches, the strike of matches and the application of a burning match to a steel generating set. Of course, nobody would apply a burning match to an electricity generating set to get it started. However, as absurd as it may sounds, that is exactly the principle behind how a petrol engine works.
The objective behind using combustible fuel (petrol, diesel etc) in fossil-fuel consuming engines we all know is to burn those fuels. And the fuels indeed burned inside these engine (Yes, burn. As in FIRE. And that is why there is always smoke from engines). It is how these fuels are burned we are concerned with in this article and how the Awo hall mosque generator will convert our fuel to power.
The reader may ask…
If the fuel really burns, then why don’t we see the fire?
First of all, like every other familiar engines. The Awo hall mosque generator is an Internal Combustion Engine, which means it burns its fuel internally, and that is why you can’t see the fire. It has a combustion chamber called a cylinder. It is inside this cylinder that the fuel catches fire and burns. There is real burning occuring inside every cylinder.
So how do the fuel catch fire in the first place?
By means of a spark plug. A spark plug is an electrical device designed to produce a spark when electricity is passed through it. The electric power needed to produce the spark comes from a battery, which comes with all cars and some generators. A spark is fire and it can burn like every other fire (By the way, we were told our forebears used to start their fires by rubbing two flint stones together and thus creating a spark)
And how will the fuel meets the spark?
By means of a fuel-air intake system. This consist of a part called a valve and ducts to air inlets. A valve is a device that enabled the controlled flow of a substance in one direction only (in this case liquid fuel). This fuel will be mixed with outside air containing oxygen by the fuel-air intake system and introduced into the cylinder at the same time as the spark. BOOM! Petrol meets fire and the engine starts.
And what next?
The amount of fuel released at that time is rapidly combusted. The fuel combusts and turned to hot expanding gas. This expanding gas is used to move the piston, which moves the crankshaft. The burnt gas produces exhaust (smoke) which is released by another valve into the smoke pipe (“silencer” in cars). A same amount of fuel is released into the cylinder again and the process repeats itself.
The whole process described (called a stroke) usually takes less than half a second. Hundreds of strokes occurs in a minute, that is why you see wheels on engines turning very fast ( e.g the engine fan in our cars).
Pistons and Crankshafts? What’s that?
A piston is a moving part in a cylinder. It is usually circular in shape and made of hard heat-resistant metal. In this case, the piston is moved by the expanding gases of a combusting fuel inside an Internal Combustion Engine. A piston is designed so that it can move up and down or forward and backward.
A crankshaft is connected to the piston. It is the engine’s link to where the power (mechanical) is needed. A crankshaft convert the piston’s lateral motion to angular motion which is required to turn a wheel ( e.g. the engine fan in our cars).
How the Awo hall mosque generator will convert our fuel to power
The wheel the Internal Combustion Engine part of the Awo hall mosque generator is required to turn is the wheel of an electricity generating device called an electromagnetic induction coil.
An electromagnetic induction coil? Ah, Whats that?
Beyond the scope of this article. Maybe next time insha-Allah, we’ll explain that.